By the time the Oklahoma Sooners take the field on Saturday against the Iowa State Cyclones, they will have spent two weeks stewing over an upset loss to the Kansas State Wildcats. Given that OU is jockeying for a spot in the College Football Playoff (Sooners landed ninth in the initial rankings) that sounds like trouble for the Cyclones.
On the other hand, the Sooners have some troubles of their own. The last time they played, the Wildcats ran the ball at will on the OU defense. Presumably, ISU's coaching staff watched the same game film as everyone else, so the Clones will be primed to exploit the same flaws KSU saw.
How the Sooners handle ISU's rushing attack is just one factor that will determine the outcome on Saturday night in Norman.
Iowa State at Oklahoma
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 9 at 8 p.m. ET
Spread: Oklahoma -13.5
When Iowa State Has the Ball
After storming on the scene as a redshirt freshman in 2018, Cyclones quarterback Brock Purdy is now having trouble replicating the success of his rookie campaign. He's averaging 8.7 yards per pass attempt this season, a 15 percent decline from his previous mark of 10.2 Additionally, Purdy has already thrown as many interceptions in eight games this year as he did in 10 appearances a year ago (seven).
Of course, not all of the responsibility for that passing regression falls on Purdy's shoulders alone. The Cyclones do have a reliable target for Purdy in tight end Charlie Kolar, but they lack threats at receiver in the mold of past ISU standouts like Hakeem Butler and Allen Lazard. As a result, the Clones are relying on more of a dink-and-dunk throwing game that doesn't stretch the field.
If OU's upset loss to KSU is any indication, watch for Iowa State to test the Sooners up front with freshman running back Breece Hall attacking the edges. OU defensive coordinator Alex Grinch hasn't offered any hints about his plan to shore up that part of his defense, but don't be surprised if the Sooners throw some new looks or personnel combinations at the Clones, especially on early downs.
When Oklahoma Has the Ball
Assuming head coach Lincoln Riley used the last two weeks to do some self-scouting, running backs Trey Sermon and Kennedy Brooks should expect to see a noticeable uptick in touches this week. In the loss to Kansas State, the duo combined for a total of six carries. Even though the Sooners have an abundance of offensive weapons at their disposal, it seems like a waste not to get those talented runners going. Look for the two to feature prominently in OU's game plan.
Meanwhile, the offensive line needs to clean up its act. The unit's affection for penalties has put the team in bad spots too often this season, and Iowa State's bend-but-don't-break defense thrives on taking advantage of situations in which offenses get knocked off schedule. The Cyclones don't give up much down the field, so the Sooners shouldn't count on making those kinds of big plays to keep drives alive.
For Iowa State, success against the Sooners will look like lots of field goal attempts by OU kicker Gabe Brkic. If the Cyclone defense can't stop OU from popping off long touchdowns, ISU has little hope of upsetting the Sooners.
Two years ago, Iowa State rolled into Norman and stunned an Oklahoma team that would eventually win the Big 12 and play in the College Football Playoff. Last year, the Cyclones hung tough with the Sooners before succumbing in the fourth quarter.
Since Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell arrived in Ames, his team has shown a knack for battling the Sooners to the bitter end. Why should this game be any different?
ISU will likely force the Sooners to prove they've solved their issues defending the edge. If OU's remedy involves dedicating too many reinforcements to stopping the run, it should give Cyclones quarterback Brock Purdy ample opportunities to do some damage against a group of defensive backs who remain a work in progress.
Still, OU's pass rush gets the better of the ISU offensive line — and it probably will — it will make it difficult for Purdy to take full advantage of an erratic secondary. A turnover or two from Purdy and the Cyclones should help OU hang on for another hard-fought victory over ISU.
Prediction: Oklahoma 38, Iowa State 28
— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.